Of all the countries comprising the EU, Poland has one of the lowest life expectancy rates, ranking 22 out of 28. With a population of 38,420,687 people and an average life expectancy of 77 years, Poland has been facing healthcare problems for years. In the past two decades, several reform programs have been implemented to address these issues and life expectancy is on the rise. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Poland describe the issues Polish citizens are facing and the lengths the Ministry of Health is going to in order to help.
10 Facts About Life Expectancy in Poland
- Life expectancy in Poland has risen consistently over the past several years. In 2014, the life expectancy for men was 73 years and for women it was 81 years. This is an increase of about four years for both men and women since the year 2000.
- Poland still ranks lower than average for life expectancy among other European countries. The average life expectancy of the EU is 78 years for men and 84 years for women. This discrepancy with the Polish population could be due to high tobacco and alcohol usage, obesity and various socioeconomic influences, with 36 percent of overall health issues being traced back to these factors.
- Polish people are 60 percent more likely to die from cardiovascular diseases than the rest of Europe. Among the population, cardiovascular diseases are responsible for 40 to 50 percent of deaths and cancer is responsible for an average of 25 percent. In 2015, Poland introduced a 10-year cancer strategy focusing on prevention, diagnosis, treatment and improving quality of life.
- With 6.5 hospital beds per 1,000 people, Poland ranks higher than the EU average for accessibility. However, there are only 5.2 nurses and 2.3 physicians practicing per 1,000 people, which ranks among the lowest in the EU (8.4 nurses and 3.6 physicians on average, per 1,000 people). In addition, healthcare services are divided by regional, county and municipal governments, making access and coordination among them difficult.
- The current unemployment rate in Poland is 3.5 percent, according to Eurostat, the statistical office of the European Union. However, the CIA World Factbook lists the poverty rate at 17 percent, as recently as 2015. The difference in healthcare between the population with the highest income and the lowest income is a 20 percent gap, with 71 percent of the highest income population reporting good health compared to just 53 percent of those with the lowest income.
- Although the average GDP spending for health in Poland has risen from 5.3 to 6.3 percent over the last 20 years, it is still well below the EU average of 9.9 percent. Per capita, Poland spends an average of EUR 1,272, making it the fifth lowest in the EU for spending. Private out-of-pocket spending made up about 23 percent of health spending, versus the EU average of 15 percent.
- There is an inability to train and retain an adequate number of healthcare workers and providers. Family medicine is not popular due to poor working conditions, low wages and limited career options. To combat this, a policy (Directive 2005/36/EC) was implemented in 2014 allowing all pediatricians and internists to work as primary healthcare physicians as well, without requiring any additional education or experience.
- Poland ranks fifth lowest for eHealth adoption and utilization among general practitioners and second-lowest for information and communication technology in the medical field. On average, 1.5 general practitioners use eHealth resources compared to the EU average of 1.9. The European Structural and Investment Funds are aiming to help further digitize the healthcare system in Poland, which in turn will lower wait times and provide more opportunities and access to a healthcare provider.
- Between 2014 and 2020, Poland will receive EUR 3 billion to fund health-related programs. The focus will be on emergency medical infrastructure, long-term healthcare, tobacco/alcohol/obesity prevention programs and eHealth access. The Polish Ministry of Health is committed to increasing public spending on health by 35 percent by 2024.
- Poland implemented the National Health Programme in order to address public health issues and promote healthy behaviors and activity. By using mass media, government-funded programs, such as the National Programme for Prevention of Alcohol-Related Problems, and legal acts, such as the Act of Physical Culture, the National Health Programme is working towards halving the growth rate of obesity and diabetes and reducing the amount of alcohol abusers by 10 percent, both by 2025. It is also aiming to reduce the amount of tobacco use by two percent by 2020.
With Polish healthcare falling short compared to EU averages, the Polish government and Ministry of Health have acknowledged the problem and are in the process of refocusing efforts to improve the quality of medical care in the country. These top 10 facts about life expectancy in Poland show that there has been an improvement in overall healthcare and life expectancy, although efforts are still ongoing. Life expectancy in Poland has been increasing by an average rate of 0.21 percent and with these changes that growth will continue over the next several years.
– Jessica Winarski